250 Words on Yale’s 250-Word Essay
There is so much advice floating around the internet about how to write Yale Law School’s infamous 250-word behemoth. It should be intellectual! No, it should be funny! Professional! Personal! Creative! Quirky! But not too quirky!
The problem with this advice is that it’s all correct. And it’s all wrong. The challenge is figuring out which advice applies to you. (For a few universal 250 “don’ts” see this blog post by YLS Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid Asha Rangappa.)
Navigating this essay can be tricky, but here is the key: it is just another essay. The only difference is that it’s shorter. (How short is 250 words? This blog post should give you an idea.) There is no need to panic. All of the regular advice about law school essays still applies. Tell a memorable story. Demonstrate your ability to reflect meaningfully about a topic or experience. Write clearly and have no errors.
The topic itself is not crucial—great 250s can be written about violins, scuba diving, or foreign policy. Identify an issue, experience, or belief that is important to you and is not yet explored in your application. Pick a topic that showcases a new aspect of your personality, background, or intellectual interests and that you can write about compellingly.
People often ask if you can use a shorted version of one of your essays for another school. Definitely. But be extra careful that the shorter essay stands on its own and flows beautifully.
The Yale 250 is one of my favorite law school essays. The prompt is intentionally open ended.
That means the topic you chose to write about says as much about you as content. Combined with the strict (yes, you must adhere to 250) word limit, this brief, open-ended essay is a writing challenge of both creativity and concision.
The first step before you draft is to review the common pitfalls of the Yale 250.
Knowing what not to do is helpful. But, how do you actually approach writing?
Here are four easy steps to help you craft an essay that does not merely avoid blunders, but one that will present you in the best possible light.
1. Think About Your Application Holistically
While each individual component of your application matters, don’t forget that the admissions committee will review the entirety of your submitted materials.
The Yale 250 is your opportunity to discuss achievements and interests that have not been fully explored in your Personal Statement, Letters of Recommendation, and resume. Consider gaps in your story or perspective that will give strangers deeper insight into who you are and how you think.
2. Brainstorm Topics with Audience in Mind
Jot down a list of facts, experiences, skills, and perspectives that you would want the Yale Admissions Committee to know about you. Challenge yourself to come up with at least a dozen ideas.
What unique interests or experiences can you speak about with authority? What are you passionate about? Perhaps you are an accomplished equestrian or avid reader of science-fiction novels.
Keep audience in mind. Yale faculty play a significant role in evaluating applications. That means your readers are among the brightest legal minds in the world. Sharing your words with this elite community is a privilege. Don’t waste it.
3. Focus on Discrete Moments or Concepts
250 is in the name of the essay. You will only have half a page to express yourself. To write about any subject with depth and insight in only 250 words means the topic you explore should be discrete.
Rather than attempt to capture the entirety of your equestrian experience, for example, zoom in on a particular, transformative moment. Don’t simply relay what happened. More important is to reflect on what this experience means to you.
If you are writing about a hobby you care about like stamp collecting, narrow the discussion to the core significance. Briefly detail aspects of your personal collection, while delving into the intellectual appeal: the nostalgia of hand-delivered mail in relation to the costs / benefits of instantaneous communication in the digital age.
In other words, be precise while also aiming to transcend the topic to explore its larger import. Easier said than done, right?
4. Draft. Revise. Revise. Revise.
Examine your options. Which topic from your list strikes the right balance between idiosyncratic detail and a more universal significance?
First, draft without sweating the word count. Capture the core of the topic and its significance to you.
Next, revise to streamline language to get the draft down to 250 words.
Before you submit, ask a trusted advisor for a neutral opinion on whether you met the essay’s objectives. Revise accordingly.
Finally, revise as a proof-reader. Like most admissions committees, Yale hates typos.
If you take these four steps and still have an essay that engages you as a reader, then it will, in turn, engage the application readers at Yale.
Don’t think of the Yale 250 as a chore. Have fun writing about yourself and your interests. Yale wants to get to know who you are beyond your stats and academic/professional work experience.
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Topics: Law School Admissions |